By day known as Coach Nick, running soccer classes for kids aged from one to 7 years on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsular, by night Nick Cook is transformed into KICKBrick™ Nick, fulfilling a passion for creating engaging, educational toys and activities that help children with their physical and creative development.
What started out as a training aid for his Little Kickers soccer classes unexpectedly morphed into a new business for Nick Cook.
'When I introduced these large, soft foam building bricks into my soccer program, the kids couldn’t get enough of them, parents were queueing up to buy them, and KICKBrick™ was born. Seeing the impact on the kids, demand from their parents, I thought I’d try and commercialise it.'
While operating a successful Little Kickers franchise, Nick soon discovered that running your own business was another thing altogether.
'In the early days there were some hard learnings, balanced out by a lot of happy accidents. I was tackling things in an adhoc way and I expected people to beat a path to my door. Unlike with my franchise business, all of a sudden I was responsible for marketing, sales, admin, product development – well everything.'
With a product he was sure was a winner, but unsure of how to translate that into business success, Nick knew he needed assistance to put KICKBrick Toys onto a solid commercial footing.
'It’s ironic bearing in mind our product is bricks, but what I think I’d missed was getting the business foundations right. I’d only recently arrived in Australia from the UK and didn’t know who to turn to for advice.'
With demand growing and a product extension - FLICKBrick™ – in the pipeline, Nick knew he had a limited window of opportunity to get things right.
'It was frustrating, particularly as I’d seen the positive developmental, team building, socialisation and physical benefits on the kids who had used the product. I felt pressure to get things right for them, and all the kids who could benefit from KICKBrick™, as much as for myself.'
Having clearly identified the issues he needed to resolve, Nick discovered that his local council was hosting a Business Victoria 2-day Commercialising Your New Idea workshop.
'What really made an impression was that the workshop leader had been there, been through the process of turning an idea into a profitable business. His first-hand experience was real, credible and invaluable.'
Nick found that the workshop provided clarity of thinking, enabling him to focus on the steps he needed to put in place to go to market effectively.
'One big thing I took away was the need to protect my IP (Intellectual Property). It hadn’t featured in my thinking previously. And with my renewed focus I was able to put together an achievable commercialisation plan, which I am still working to.'
Nick also took advantage of the free mentoring sessions included as part of the workshop.
'It is one thing having a plan, another thing implementing it. The mentoring really helped me with that. There were also incredible practical benefits from these sessions, one of which has revolutionised our new product range packaging with both commercial and logistical benefits.'
The business today
Working to his quarterly commercialisation plan, Nick has changed the structure of his business, prototypes have arrived for his new FLICKBrick™ ‘mini-bricks’ collectibles and Planx ranges, and a number of construction toys are in the pipeline.
'I call it "my big hairy audacious goal", but the plan is to take FLICKBrick Toys international. That’s what comes next, and I can see now that we can make it happen. First though come our new product launches. We are putting a lot of ticks in a lot of boxes.'
Nick’s renewed focus is also benefiting children in Nepal, India, Kenya and Cambodia, something he hopes will increase with continued business success.
'Part of our business model is giving to those less fortunate than ourselves. For every bag of KICKBricks we sell, we donate real bricks to school and community-building programs around the world. Seeing our commercial success having a real and tangible benefit for children experiencing hardship is one of the most rewarding things for me.'